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Verleihung Deutscher Fernsehpreis - Jan Böhmermann
Image: picture-alliance/Geisler-Fotopress

Böhmermann speaks out in video statement and song

October 5, 2016

German comedian Jan Böhermann has defended his now infamous "defamatory poem" as a joke in his first statement since the investigation against him was dropped. He also heavily criticized the Turkish government.


In his first statement following German prosecutors dropping charges against him, comedian Jan Böhmermann addressed the international outrage and subsequent investigation following his raunchy poem about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"It is now officially established, at least provisionally, that this was a joke at heart," Böhmermann said seated behind a desk in a video uploaded to YouTube. "[The joke] was tasteless for some, while others at that time found it just right."

He thanked the German public broadcaster ZDF, which hosts his show "Neo Magazine Royale," for supporting him during the investigation. as well as sardonically praising the Mainz prosecutor for "watching the complete ... episode." 

Prosecutors on Tuesday dropped the case against Böhmermann, citing among other reasons, the obviously satirical and exaggerated nature of the poem.

Böhmermann also took aim at the Turkish government in his statement, noting that "compared to what critical journalists, satirists, or opposition members faced at that time and even now, all this fuss about the 'Böhmermann Affair' is another big, sad joke."

He also jabbed at German politicians for the investigation, saying: "If a joke triggers a state crisis, it is not the problem of the joke, but of the state."

His German-language video statement ended with Böhmermann singing Monty Python's "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" in English. Accompanied by a guitarist, Böhmermann whistled and sang "freedom" as he slowly danced off screen.

Böhmermann's poem was in response to Turkey summoning the German ambassador over a less lewd song criticizing Erdogan on another satirical show. Ahead of delivering the poem on March 31, Böhmermann said on air that Erdogan clearly couldn't differentiate between fair criticism and genuine libelous insult - saying this poem would serve as a case study demonstrating the difference. 

Erdogan was at the time using a law forbidding insults against the president within Turkey to press more than 2,000 cases against people - although after July's coup attempt he pledged a mass amnesty for those cases.

Probable appeal

Although prosecutors dropped the charges, the Böhmermann case may not be over yet.

"The president has given his lawyer in Germany the authority to appeal the prosecutors' decision," a politician with Erdogan's AKP party, Mustafa Yeneroglu, told the German daily "Bild" newspaper on Wednesday.

Erdogan's Munich-based lawyer Michael-Hubertus von Sprenger confirmed to the German dpa news agency that an appeal would be filed within the next 14 days.

The case led to international debates about freedom of speech and calls within Germany for an archaic law, Paragraph 103, about insulting foreign heads of state to be abolished. Germany's houses of parliament are working on abolishing the law at present. Meanwhile, opposition and coalition parties alike have put pressure on German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her government to accelerate the process.

"Lese majeste [offending foreign heads of state] is a relic from the last century," senior Social Democrat Thomas Oppermann said on Wednesday. Therefore the law should be abolished soon, Oppermann urged, saying the current 2018 timetable was not good enough. This sentiment was echoed by the Green party's federal parliamentary group leader Anton Hofreiter in an interview with the German newspaper the "Saarbrücker Zeitung." He said Merkel could not let the matter be swept under the carpet.

rs/msh (AFP, dpa)


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